Idiom #4 To feather one’s nest

It has been a while since I wrote about idioms. Time to get back on track again. This week’s idiom would probably be better posted on my Birding Blog.

This Week’s Idiom

To feather one’s nest

or

To feather one’s own nest

Origin

This idiom obviously comes from the practice of many birds to gather feathers to add to their nest in order to make it more comfortable for themselves while incubating the eggs and then warmer for the chicks once hatched. It has been suggested that some birds actually pluck their own feathers to add to the nest. I’ve never witnessed this in thirty years of birding but it could well be the case. More likely is the gathering of feathers left lying around after a bird dies, or is killed, or from the empty nests of other birds.

Meanings

The applied use of this idiom in common speech and in writing implies that the person being spoken of is gathering financial gain for himself at the expense of others, usually in a dishonest way. So to say that “Peter was feathering his own nest at the company’s expense” is to say that he was perhaps embezzling company funds.

It could also be applied to the misplaced motivation for an action. For example, “Susan only wanted to become a member of parliament to feather her own nest.”

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